Community, Health & Learning Through Service in Sri Lanka

Program Quick Facts

Location: Sri Lanka

Faculty Leaders: Suzanne Gaulocher and Dr. N Ewen Wang

Arrival date in Colombo (tentative): August 8, 2016

Departure date from Colombo (tentative): August 28, 2016

Information Session: Thursday, January 7, 2016 | 12:00pm -1:00pm | Sweet Hall, Ground Floor, Room 020

Missed the information session? Watch the recorded version now!


Building from the success of the Haas Center’s Impact Abroad program and pilot international service-learning seminars led by Gabe Garcia, the Bing Overseas Studies Program and the Haas Center for Public Service have jointly implemented an innovative overseas Community Engaged Learning program. This Special Program is a collaboration between BOSP and the Haas Center and includes opportunities for Stanford students to engage in an overseas experience together with a Community Engaged Learning opportunity. This proposed initiative aligns with the Haas Center’s current development priorities.

This BOSP Special Program starts during the spring quarter with a pre-field seminar at Stanford, summer travel to Sri Lanka, an island country off the coast of India, and concludes with post-trip celebration and reflection workshops at Stanford during the fall. The spring quarter seminar will introduce students to Sri Lanka, a country with a complex political, religious and development climate; as well as provide constructs for ongoing reflection, and critical analysis of their experience. This Service-Learning course will address pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges facing people living in Sri Lanka, together with a community partner that has experience at multiple levels in the country.

We partner with the holistic grassroots development strategy of the village-based Sarvodaya Movement, one of Sri Lanka’s largest non-governmental organizations participating in 15,000 villages. Students will visits district centers, live in a village while engaging in the basic elements of the Sarvodaya Movement.

The trip will include a four-day Shramadana work camp with our host village. (The literal meaning of Shramadana is “sharing one’s time,and energy for the welfare of all.”) A few main principles of Shramadana are: leadership, cultural development, building community capacity and sustainability.

Classroom presentations by community health and social services personnel will be integrated with short-term residence in rural villages. Using the framework of asset-based community development, students will explore topics such as: nutrition, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, violence prevention, psychosocial rehabilitation, traditional healing and meditation in the context of ethnic and religious diversity, poverty, recovery from natural disaster and civil war.

Students will have opportunities to intentionally integrate course learning objectives into their experiences. Students will be expected to produce a combination of reflection papers, slide presentations, and website posting. The experience will culminate in an individual, small group and class photo mapping project with village residents. Relevant individual project topics in the past have included:

  • Participatory, grassroots development
  • Microfinance and the empowerment of women
  • War-affected populations and post-conflict development
  • Agriculture and health - specifically endemic kidney disease linked to pesticide use
  • Disparities in health
  • Public health successes using low-cost, low-tech approaches
  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Holistic approaches to health care

The class project will involve a walking tour with our village hosts utilizing Participatory Photo Mapping.

The in-country experience will include:

  • Village tour with a family stay culminating in a community celebration
  • Service learning activities at an organic farm and orphanage
  • Shramadana work camp
  • Visiting Buddhist and Hindu Temples and other unique locations in Sri Lanka
  • Guided meditation


Sri Lanka is considered a developing country, but disparities exist across the country. However, government and grassroots level health care providers provide a substantial amount of health prevention and treatment, creating a population-level impact on positive health outcomes. The students will have an opportunity to meet high-level health officers and public health providers, such as doctors alongside grassroots providers, like midwives and village level providers.

Living and Travel Conditions

Students will begin and end the trip in Moratuwa, a suburb in Sri Lanka’s capital - Colombo. They will make a loop through the central part of the country staying in three of the five cities that make up Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’. Accommodation will consist of a guest house and dormitory-style housing as well as home stay.

1. Moratuwa - Home to Sarvodaya headquarters, Moratuwa sits on the western coast of the island and is a short hour bus ride to Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo.

2. Anuradhapura - Students will visit the dry-zone of Anuradhapura to learn about agricultural practices and to volunteer on an organic farm. Ancient capital boosted of public health care and education systems, extensive irrigation systems, agriculture and health, (attention specific to endemic kidney disease linked to pesticide use).

3. TBD - The home stay and Shramadana will be held in the ?? district of TBD

4. Kandy - The scenic city of Kandy’s temperate climate offers a respite to extreme temperatures that dominate the island. It is home to the most sacred Buddhist temple.

5. Bandaragama - Is a small-secluded town in the South East of the Island. Sarvodaya has a learning center there that will perfect for our final two days of reflection and presentations.

6. Unawatuna - To celebrate the end of the course and to decompress from an intense trip we will head to the well known tourist attraction of South beach

The Shramadana is a multi day work experience in which students will be working alongside host families to build something for the village. In past years, Shramadanas have contributed to building a community center or a kitchen on a preschool. The Shramadana for this trip has yet to be determined, but students should prepare to work physically hard during our village stay. This includes things like: pulling weeds, moving rocks, clearing ground of plants, mixing cement, lifting bricks, etc.

Cost and Travel

Students will pay a program fee of $600. The program fee covers lodging from the arrival date through the night prior to departure, 21 meals per week, and all program activities. Students must arrange and pay for their own round-trip transportation to Colombo, Sri Lanka, paying for any extra food beyond the meals included in the program and all personal and incidental expenses. Some financial assistance towards the $600 program fee may be available from BOSP for students with demonstrated financial need as determined by the Financial Aid Office. Students who are eligible for this program fee waiver will be notified by BOSP after they get accepted or waitlisted for this program. Please contact the Financial Aid Office directly if you wish to discuss the possibility of student loans.


Dr. N Ewen Wang has strong interest and dedication to, community health, education, and researching disparities in pediatric emergency care, both internationally and in California. Currently Dr. Wang serves as Associate Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Among her teaching endeavors, she has served as course director of the population health curriculum at the Stanford School of Medicine, which emphasizes population health and community collaboration. In conjunction with Child Health International, she has initiated an advanced pediatric life support curriculum in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Outside the scope of the medical school, Dr. Wang is active in undergraduate education. She has served as course director of the Human Biology undergraduate course International Public Health, as well a the sophomore seminar which focuses on teaching students about the social and economic aspects of international health. She is presently working with the undergraduate student group, Stanford Health Advocates and Research in the ED (Shar(ED)). Internationally, Dr. Wang has worked extensively in Latin America in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia as a practicing physician as well as medical educator for Latin American medical students, residents and physicians. Most recently, she has also worked at the ASRI clinic in rural Borneo as a volunteer physician. Dr. Wang has a strong interest in decreasing health outcome disparities in the pediatric emergency medicine population. Her current research includes investigating disparities in trauma access in the California pediatric population.

Suzanne Gaulocher recently earned her PhD with the Nelson Institute in Environment and Resources at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She also received a MPH from the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health in 2005, a MA from Oregon State University in medical anthropology in 2001 and a BS in cultural anthropology in 1996. Suzanne combines approaches from all of these disciplines into her research and practice in the US and abroad. Her work thus far has centered on increasing knowledge that supports the intersection between health and place research with a focus on community engagement and equity. In her work, Suzanne has been building upon a framework that addresses interconnected human and non-human systems in order to positively impact human health outcomes. To do this she uses Community-based Participatory Research techniques to engage with community members, academics, stakeholders and professionals to learn how people use places and how health supports and barriers are assessed, addressed and translated into action.

Enrollment Capacity

15 Undergraduate Students

Eligibility and Application

Students who have participated in an Overseas Seminar in the past or are participating in an Overseas Seminar in the summer of 2016 ARE eligible to apply for and participate in this BOSP Special Program. All Stanford undergraduates in good academic standing with 45 credits by the end of Spring Quarter prior to the program are eligible to participate. Seniors or Co-Terms are eligible as long as they do not have their undergraduate degrees conferred before the end of Summer Quarter. International students should check with the Bechtel International Center whether or not their status will allow them to be enrolled for a course over the summer.

The application deadline for the Community, Health, & Learning Through Service in Sri Lanka program is January 17, 2016. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee. To determine an applicant’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program, the following offices may be consulted:

  • Residential Education
  • Office of Accessible Education
  • Undergraduate Advising and Research
  • Office of Judicial Affairs
  • Vaden Health Center/Counseling and Psychological Services

NOTE: Vaden will not share confidential health information with the program, but may identify a concern with an applicant’s readiness to participate, to be further addressed with the applicant.

BOSP reserves the right to revoke admission at any point prior to the program should there be any changes to student’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program. BOSP will notify the student should there be any concerns, if the student is no longer eligible to participate in the program.

Prerequisites and Expectations

There is a spring quarter class taught on Sri Lanka which will cover logistics, Principles of Ethical and Effective Service, history of Sri Lanka, overview of health and healthcare in the country and a breakdown of major issues we will be discussing for this class, such as infectious and chronic disease, disparity, etc.

Details forthcoming: Recognizing the value of reflection after the trip is over, we will have some post program debriefing workshops after we return.

There will be a series of required meetings through BOSP in addition to the spring quarter course.

Required readings include but are not limited to:

  1. From Dharma to Development by Joanna Macey
  2. From A to Z: A Student’s Field Guide to Sarvodaya and Sri Lanka
  3. “The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka: When the Elephant Moves…” Beliefs and Values 2009
  4. Sri Lankan Journal of Population and Reproductive Health, Ariyaratne and Brooks
  5. Participatory photo mapping (PPM): Exploring an integrated method for health and place research with young people. By Dennis Jr., Samuel, Gaulocher, Suzanne, Carpiano, Rich, Brown, David. 2009.
  6. on the Sarvodaya Movement, Sri Lankan village life and cultural sensitivity, along with interviews with the leaders of Sri Lanka’s largest non-government organization will provide background for three weeks of learning in the field.

Grading Basis

Letter Grade

Participation Requirements

Participants must adhere to the BOSP participation requirements set forth in the Bing Overseas Studies Program (“BOSP”) Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement (“BOSP Agreement”). In addition, participants must adhere to the program ground rules that will be discussed in details during the Spring Quarter. 

All students are required to meet all prerequisites, attend all mandatory orientations and turn in all required materials by the designated deadlines in order to remain eligible to participate in the program. Failure to turn in required materials by the designated deadlines, attend the mandatory orientation session and complete mandatory orientation activities will result in your removal from the program. This will enable us to better prepare students for studying abroad, and will ensure fairness to students on the waitlist who have completed all of these items. All program participants are required to attend the entire program, from the scheduled arrival date/time through the scheduled departure date/time. Late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted under any circumstance.

Passport and Visa

Students traveling to Sri Lanka will need to obtain an electronic tourist visa prior to arrival. More Sri Lanka visa information will be shared with students at the appropriate time. Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa. Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

VisaCentral San Francisco

Visa Central by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
  • By phone: (877) 535-0688

Travisa San Francisco

Travisa for Stanford Travel Program offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 220 Montgomery St. Suite 991, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • By phone: (415) 837-0771

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their physicians.

Students must be aware that certain immunizations will be recommended to protect health in Sri Lanka. Certain diseases are present in Sri Lanka and the risk of contraction may be reduced through proper vaccinations (e.g. Hepatitis A and B,  typhoid, Tdap, Japanese Encephalitis, rabies, etc.), medications ( traveler’s diarrhea) and/or behavior precautions (Leptospirosis, dengue, leishmaniasis, chikungunya, HIV/AIDS, etc.). Students must discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to prevent malaria. There are several types of malaria prophylaxis (prevention) drugs. These medications need to be started prior to travel and continued for various periods after returning. Students will be expected to be up to date on all routine vaccines including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus/pertussis, influenza, and polio. Any illness or health concern including animal exposures, should be immediately reported to the instructor. Gastrointestinal illnesses are common, though rarely serious. Students should consult with a travel health clinician to be prepared for this potential illness.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information on health conditions and vaccinations in Sri Lanka. It is strongly recommended that students make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic as soon as getting accepted to the program at (650) 498-2336 ext. 1 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad. For some programs, an appointment will be mandatory.

Students must review the U.S. State Department’s consular information website for complete information on safety and security in Sri Lanka.

As with any foreign travel, emphasis will be placed on staying away from questionable situations, avoiding injury, and preventing infectious disease. Students will be expected to travel in groups, avoid travel at night, and stay with the group unless prior approval is obtained.

While overseas, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the areas in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their physicians to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this program.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, or unavailability of facilities or personnel or compliance with the University travel policy. The specific program dates, locations, facilities, and activities are subject to change depending on available resources at the time, safety and security situations on the ground, and other important considerations that may arise for a successful implementation of the program.